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So Bad Ites Good

Is chasing engagement on social worth it? We look at THAT Tesco tweet during Euro 2020 and why marketers are on the fence when it comes to shoehorning content during shared cultural moments.

Reactive Content

Emily Evans & Emily Williams

26 Jul 2021

N.B. This post contains multiple mentions of football coming home. If this is still too raw for you, maybe look away now (we understand).

Think back to the halcyon days of early July. Love Island had just started, freedom day had been given the unofficial go ahead, and football seemed like it might be coming home, with the England team edging closer and closer to the final of Euro 2020. All this meant that, naturally, some of the UK’s biggest brands had one thing on their minds- content. Enter Tesco, with their wince-worthy play on words, ‘Ites coming home’:

As is the norm these days whenever a brand deploys some so-called ‘Brandter’ on social, marketers flocked online with some hot takes on the content:

But here at Born, we were divided.

Yes, the pun felt like a bit of a stretch, a slightly desperate attempt to wedge Tesco into a shared cultural moment that could have been executed better. But on the other hand, the tweet garnered 1.3k likes, compared to the company’s usual 20- 100. And, according to Netbase, drew 3,107,260 potential impressions- 144x what they get from their more tame, ‘BAU’ style tweets*. When you look at it that way, defining it as a poor piece of content becomes a little more murky.

‘Marketing Twitter’ have taken umbrage with this style for quite some time. But Gareth Turner, head of Brand at Weetabix, doesn’t see what all the fuss is about; speaking recently to Marketing Week about that tweet, he quipped:

If we put a tweet out about beans on Weetabix, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s just marketing, it’s not world peace we’re talking about here.

This mindset, that these playful marketing tactics are nothing more than a bit of fun that might result in increased engagement, is held by those in one camp. In the other, the idea that we shouldnt be adding more weak marketing to the world just because the general public gets a laugh out of it for a day or two. Unless, that is, it’s actually driving brand love and/or fame within their target audience.

It’s obvious that this engagement-chasing tactic alone isn’t enough to drive long lasting results, but are brands seeing at least some value from those naff reactive posts that marketers tend to hate? It’s worth remembering that we’re reportedly more single- minded than the military, so our opinions might not be particularly representative of those of the general public. When comparing the performance of Tesco’s ‘ites coming home’, to its clever counterpart from Specsavers that was favoured by adland, in the week they were posted Tesco received 36,169 mentions, whilst Specsavers received 9,100.

A similar story emerges when looking at the potential impressions of each tweet, with Tesco appearing to leave Specsavers in its dust: 3,107,260 vs 387,000. However, keep in mind Tesco has 10x the Twitter followers than Specsavers.

It’s clear that both brands earned reach far beyond just their follower base, but Tesco does have one thing over Specsavers. Paul Feldwick (Anatomy of a Humbug, Why Does the Pedlar Sing) says that for a brand seeking fame, creating controversy can be a good thing, as work becomes famous when the public and the media both engage with it. Tesco’s tweet got media coverage in general press (circa 55 mentions in mainstream and local press), whereas Specsavers’ was only covered in marketing industry press (circa 6 mentions in industry press, ie. The Drum Campaign).

But in fact, even when we do just look at ‘Marketing Twitter’, there was far more chat around Tesco than there was around Specsavers:

The irony of which wasn’t lost on everyone.

The idea of brands making content ‘so bad it’s good’ for engagement isn’t a new one. You may remember the Conservatives adopting a fairly aesthetically-offensive content style for their social content back in 2019:

And it’s a tactic that’s old hat for performance marketers. They’ve long known a spelling mistake or a crap bit of creative stands out against a sea of high production, artfully shot Instagram feeds, so they use this to their advantage. They don’t care if people think its a bit stupid, because the point is they noticed it in the first place. When you apply this thinking to a huge brand like Tesco or the leading political party in the UK, you can see how it might work in their favour. Whether it’s shared around to be ridiculed or praised, it’s all earned reach. As Andy Warhol said, ‘Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.’

Ultimately, whether it could be described as a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’ boils down to the brand’s objectives. We know that likes and shares don’t equate to extra buyers, which is why we think of them as ‘vanity’ metrics. But, the earned reach driven by the viral nature of the content can’t be sniffed at. Couple that with the extra mental availability that’s created by the increased conversation around the brand, and you have a recipe for increased spontaneous awareness, one of the key drivers of long term growth. Whilst arguing for its effectiveness isn’t clear cut, we’re with Weetabix - what’s the harm?